Ethics: The Heart of Leadership

By Joanne B. Ciulla | Go to book overview

C) Hypothesis, the formulation of a decision or plan of action consistent with the known facts; D) Experimentation and Evaluation, the implementation of the decision or plan in order to see if it leads to the resolution of the problem. There are, of course, no perfect answers in ethics or life. The quality of our ethical choices cannot be measured solely in terms of achievements. Ultimately and ethically, intention, commitment, and concerted effort are as important as outcome: What/why did leader/followers try to do? How did they try to do it?

Leadership is hard to define, and moral leadership is even harder. Perhaps, like pornography, we only recognize moral leadership when we see it. The problem is, we so rarely see it. Nevertheless, I am convinced that without the "witness" of moral leadership, standards of ethics in business and organizational life will neither emerge nor be sustained. Leadership, even when defined as a collaborative experience, is still about the influence of individual character and the impact of personal mentoring. Behavior does not always beget like behavior in a one-to-one ratio, but it does establish tone, set the stage, and offer options. Although to achieve ethical behavior, an entire organization, from top to bottom, must make a commitment to it, the model for that commitment has to originate from the top. 48 Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently stated, "The most eloquent moral appeal will be no match for the dispassionate edict of the market."49 Perhaps the "witness" of moral leadership can prove to be more effective.


NOTES
1.
Maynard M. Dolecheck and Carolyn C. Dolecheck, "Ethics: Take It from the Top", Business ( January-March 1989): 13.
2.
James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth ( New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991), 1, 20, 21, 22.
3.
"Quotable Quotes", Chicago Tribune Magazine, January 1, 1996, p. 17,
4.
B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971), 107, 108, 150, 214, 215.
5.
Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People ( New York: A Fireside Book, 1990), 42, 43.
6.
John Dewey, Theory of the Moral Life ( New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960), 3-28.
7.
Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Human Emotions ( New York: The Wisdom Library, ND), 23, 24, 32, 33, 39, 40, 43, 44.
8.
John Rawls, "Justice as Fairness: Political not Metaphysical", Philosophy and Public Affairs 14 ( 1985): 223-51.
9.
The academic issue of which system of ethics best answers "what we ought to do" is a moot point and may in fact be an artificial one. However, the reality is, whichever way one decides to answer the question, "what we ought to do" is an endemic requirement of the human condition.

-43-

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